Grand Opera House, Belfast
2 December – 14 January 2018
The plot begins in familiar territory. Out of the moonlight, a bright-faced boy in green flies through a bedroom window to the delight of young John and Michael Darling, the consternation of their dog Nana and the bemusement of their sister Wendy. He is the mysterious Peter Pan (Mikey Jay-Heath), for whom the children have been watching, night after night.
From a single beam of light, he conjures up Tinker Bell (Hollie O’Donoghue), an impudent fairy on rollerblades. Together they fly off to an exotic Neverland, at which point JM Barrie’s enchanting story of the boy who never grew up largely takes its leave.
As usual, the Grand Opera House’s big, flashy pantomime comes laden with fabulous sets, costumes and lighting effects. This year it has grown in spectacle and its dazzling centrepiece is a seriously scary 3D underwater sequence, which sends the audience into auto spin.
At this early stage, however, the creaky script feels like a work in progress. Unfunny gags and thin characterisations go hand in hand with some uninspiring lead performances.
Still, impressionist Paul Burling’s amiable pirate Starkey provides plenty of mischievous moments, while, vocally and visually, David Bedella’s leering Hook is an absolute wow as the classic pantomime villain.
Previously published on The Stage – 6 December 2017